Once they were seated in the living room, Bethany in a chair and Luke and Erin next to her on the couch. Luke noticed something was amiss. "Where's Lenore?"
Erin's breath caught. She knew that whatever her husband was about to tell them was going to be devastating when Luke just now realized his princess hadn't ran to smother him with kisses.
"She's next door at the Thomson's."
Luke nodded. "Good. I'd rather her not hear this."
Erin and Bethany exchanged frightened glances.
Luke cleared his throat. "I guess there's only one way to say this...David's dead."
"No..." Bethany covered her mouth as something tears flooded her crystal blue eyes.
Erin's shoulders trembled as reality set in. Her brother was dead? She took Luke's arm and he held her close.
With one hand against her stomach, Bethany whispered. "What happened?"
Luke pulled away from Erin and knelt in front of the widow. He took her hand in his and began. "We were flying over enemy territory, David and I, in separate planes. He was to my left and we were being fired upon. Neither of us were shot down at first and I thought we were going to make it across the lines. Then, I looked over and, in a cloud of black smoke, David's plane was doing a nosedive. I couldn't believe it. One second he was there and the next...and the next he was gone."
His own tears now falling freely, Luke prepared to wind up his heart-breaking story. "I circled around and flew back over. I thought maybe if David or Joshua had somehow managed to get out we could swoop down and get them. But when we got back, the plane was in flames and there was no one around."
For several minutes, Bethany cried and Luke comforted her.
He stood up and walked across the room to the desk. Taking a deep breath he opened the drawer and pulled out a small white envelope. He came back and held it out to Bethany.
She immediately recognized her name written on the back in David's handwriting. "Will you read it to me, please?"
Luke unfolded the letter and, sitting on the couch with one arm around Erin, began to read:
My dearest Bethany,
If you are reading this, Luke has just delivered you the news. My only regret is leaving you to raise our child alone. I know you will do right by him or her and raise them to love Christ with their whole heart.
My sister found a good man. I'm at peace knowing Erin and Luke will see to it you and the baby are taken care of.
Don't spend your days grieving for me, my sweetheart. That's not my wish, I want you to be happy. I don't want you dying with me. You have a lot of love to give, Beth, you have to move on.
I would have loved to spend many a year with you, the way we planned it. Growing old together, watching our children start their own families. But that is not God's Will. His Will is always perfect.
You are the love of my life and my best friend.
Goodbye, my sweet Beth. I will always love you.
"Excuse me." Bethany whispered as she hurried from the room. Erin stood and started after her but Luke grabbed her hand. "Let her go."
"She needs to be alone. She knows we're here for her." He stood and pulled her into his arms and she clung to him. Luke rubbed her back as she sobbed into his shirt.
Suddenly Erin pulled away. "Why, Luke? Why David? Doesn't God know Bethany needs him?"
"Don't ever question God, sweetheart." Luke pulled a handkerchief from his pocket and wiped the tears from her eyes. "Like David's letter said, His ways are always perfect."
Erin leaned back into him, crying until no more tears would come.
She straightened up. "How long can you stay?"
"I have to be on a bus in the morning and then I'll be on a ship by the night after that." Luke handed her his handkerchief.
"Back to Europe..."